Friday, December 17, 2004

Spare us your rapture, please

In accepting the Harvard Medical School's fourth annual Global Environment Citizen Award on December 1st, journalist Bill Moyers gave a speech. When I came across it on the web, it sent chills down my spine. It also clarified a lot for me.

An excerpt: "One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality."

Examples of theologians and ideologues in power abound. Moyers reminds us of James Watt, head of the EPA under Reagan, who testified to Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. He testified publicly, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

A recent Gallup poll found that one third of the American electorate believe the Bible is literally true. Moyers suggests that several million good and decent citizens went to the polls in the last election believing in the rapture index. "Google it and you'll find that the best-selling books in America today are the twelve volumes of the left-behind series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theory concoted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans."

These people believe that once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands" legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. They think they will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where they'll sit at the right hand of God. Their opponents, political and religious, will suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the years of tribulation that follow. Is it coincidence that the Bush administration is the first in modern times that has not tried to create peace in Israel? Or that it went to war in Iraq? Those awaiting the rapture believe war with Islam is not to be feared, but to be welcomed. Moyers calls the Iraq war "an essential conflagration on the road to redemption."

And as for the environment, Moyers says, "millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed--even hastened--as a sign of the coming apocalypse." He details our president's environmental policies: a relaxation of pollution limits for ozone; elimination of vehicle tailpipe inspections; easing pollution standards for cars, sports utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment; a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public; dropping review suits against polluting coal-fired power plants and weakening consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies; opening the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and increasing drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America. It's easy to see that Bushco is doing more than lining the pockets of oil companies; they're actually working to hasten the rapture.

So, all you Republicans--those of you who are fiscal conservatives and not religious wing-nuts--I guess you'd better do what they suggest on, where the index is at an all-time high: "fasten your seatbelts."

Someone else sums it up perfectly

The political situation is so warped and dire it's hard for me to write anything these days. Sometimes I just don't care, it's all so out of whack. I came across this wonderful essay on Democratic Underground, and I am presenting it for my handful of readers.

December 17, 2004
By Laurie Stone

There's a game I play these days. It's called "Remote Fear Factor." The object of the game is to see how long I can watch the nightly news before picking up the remote and turning the television off, either in disgust or horror. I win when I can actually stomach the entire broadcast. The remote wins when I turn off the show halfway through and many times, sooner. Unfortunately, more and more these days, the remote seems to be winning.

The other day, the game lasted eight minutes. That's when NBC Nightly News was showing the aftermath of the "Battle for Falluja."Horrible images of bloated, fly-specked corpses lined the streets; wild, starving dogs roamed the empty vistas that used to be teeming with people. Beautiful mosques which had been standing a month ago lay in ruins, only identified by their mosaic tiled roofs, now in a crumbled heap. Hospitals, schools, homes, all gone, all destroyed.

I held the remote in my hand, ready to push "off" but couldn't do it quite yet. I had to see how this network would sum up all this carnage, how they were going to wrap it up with a red ribbon and sell it to the American people.

I didn't have to wait long. After giving us this grisly footage, Brian Williams looked sincerely into the camera and said, "And now the question remains, as Falluja's citizens come back to their city, their bombed-out homes, their devastated mosques, their school and hospitals in ruins... will they be bitter or see this as a new beginning?"

Click. That was it. Score another for the remote.

Well Brian, call me crazy but I bet it's a little of both. Yes, I'd be a tad bitter if someone just destroyed my home and killed a few family members, and yes, I bet they view this very much as a new beginning. Even those Fallujans who merely tolerated us before probably hate us now with a passion we can only imagine.

I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe. While I see images of happy consumers in this country lining up to buy DVD players at Wal-Mart, or Oprah's audience in a rabid frenzy over the next shiny trinket she throws at them, or Laura Bush giving a tour of her White House Christmas decorating, it's like watching a strange Stephen King movie. The clown face painted on a death mask.

I wonder if anyone else shares this strange sense of disconnect. How things aren't quite what they seem. It's ironic that reality shows have become such a hit in America. Most of our citizens seem to prefer a manufactured reality to that going on across the world, in our name.

As I get my children off to school in the morning or shop for groceries in a store teeming with every food imaginable, I can't help thinking of those Iraqi women four thousand miles away, trying to feed their families on whatever scraps can be had in their war-torn, ravaged country. What did these people do to deserve this? Was their only crime living in an oil-rich part of the world?

I know I'm supposed to be grateful they're feeling the pain instead of me. After all, if it wasn't happening there, it would be happening here, or so I'm told by conservative friends... but are things that simple? If there's any karmic justice, how can this possibly bode well?

And so it goes, night after night. What's most telling about the evening news is not what it shows but what it doesn't show. Since the election, there's little talk of Halliburton or Abu Ghraib or depleted uranium. Instead, we're told everything is fine. The Iraqi people can't wait to get to those polls (providing they live that long) and vote in a fair, legal, binding election. You know, an election just like we had here, right? All is well, folks. Just keep shopping at Wal-Mart and watching "The Apprentice."

And what else can I do night after night, but keep watching in frustration and sadness? Before the election, stories of such atrocities gave me a strange sense of hope. With each one, I was sure this would definitely turn the tide, change people's minds, steer the fate of this country away from the abyss.

Now that hope is gone. We're stuck. Like so many Americans, the only feeling of control left lies in that tiny black apparatus resting in my hand. When the lies get too deep, the insanity too much, I push the button and make it all go away. If only the Iraqis could do the same.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Seeing red, buying blue

Not shopping Wal-Mart has been a no-brainer for me for a long time. Watching the small town squares of Indiana empty out after the big box opens on the outskirts always pained me, and stories of the oppressive labor policies drove me to Target frequently. But a new website, "" has changed my mind once more. I should have suspected there was something wrong with a store that uses that much red in its branding. Sure enough, Target contributes handsomely to the Republican party, and helped reinstate Bushco in the recent election. It made me feel good to call their customer service department and tell them I'd be buying my home furnishings and dogfood at Costco in the future. Sure, they're entitled to donate to whomever they want. I just don't have to subsidize them.

Other offenders? Remarkably, Turns out most of their political donations go to the red side of the fence. Barnes & Noble give to my guys. Guess where I'm going to buy my books from here on out?

This is an interesting development. The country is totally fractured when progressives buy at one store, neocons at another.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Things to do before the inauguration

Our next door neighbor Dorothy sent this list. I don't know who it came from originally; it may have been someone named Joey Lee. Enjoy.

Some Things To Do Before The Inaugural:

1. Get that abortion you've always wanted.

2. Drink a nice clean glass of water.

3. Cash your social security check.

4. See a doctor of your own choosing.

5. Spend quality time with your draft age child/grandchild. >

6. Visit Syria, or any foreign country for that matter.

7. Get that gas mask you've been putting off buying.

8. Hoard gasoline.

9. Borrow books from library before they're banned - Constitutional Law books, Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter, Tropic of Cancer, etc.

10. If you have an idea for an art piece involving a crucifix - do it now.

11. Come out - then go back in - HURRY!

12. Jam in all the Alzheimer's stem cell research you can.

13. Stay out late before the curfews start.

14. Go see Bruce Springsteen before he has his "accident".

15. Go see Mount Rushmore before the Reagan addition.

16. Use the phrase - "you can't do that - this is America".

17. If you're white - marry a black person, if you're black - marry a white person.

18. Take a walk in Yosemite, without being hit by a snowmobile or a base-jumper.

19. Enroll your kid in an accelerated art or music class.

20. Start your school day without a prayer.

21. Pass on the secrets of evolution to future generations.

22. Learn French.

23. Attend a commitment ceremony with your gay friends.

24. Take a factory tour anywhere in the US.

25. Try to take photographs of animals on the endangered species list.

26. Visit Florida before the polar ice caps melt.

27. Visit Nevada before it becomes radioactive.

28. Visit Alaska before "The Big Spill".

29. Visit Massachusetts while it is still a State.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Why can't I own Canadians?

This interesting letter came my way. I wish I knew who wrote it; I'd like to shake his or her hand. After reading it, my friend Gail Ryder in Detroit remarked, "Why cant I be a Canadian?"

Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law.

I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As you said, "in the eyes of God marriage is based between a man and a woman." I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? She is 6 years old, healthy, and very smart. She doesn't want to be a slave, so that might be a problem.

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19 24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear contact lenses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though Lev. 19 expressly forbids this: How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? What should we do with the NFL?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these
things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Very Truly Yours,